Back When We Were Grownups


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I read the Large Print version and also listened to the audio. All page references are to the large print version but it has been my experience that the page numbers are often consistent in both large and regular print.

I really liked this book. There were a lot of characters but it was okay if you didn't remember the life history of each one because the author included enough context each time to gently remind you who each one was.

The main character, Rebecca, finds herself in present day 1999 and suddenly wonders how she got to this point in her life. She starts to wonder how her life would have turned out if she had made different choices - like married a different man. I'd like to think this is a normal thing to wonder about, especially since I've wondered similarly. Rebecca, however, actually went out and explored the possibility. She went to dinner with her former boyfriend! It turned into several dinners and beyond.

I found this book as entertaining as a soap opera (in my book that's a good thing - I watched All My Children for almost 30 yaers until it ended.) It had lots of story lines that intertwined. Aside from the possibility of rekindling an old romance, there are families blending and beloved family members aging. Ms. Allen fantastically captures the simultaneous joy and frustration of trying to converse with an elderly person. (p. 239)

On a scale of 1 - 5:

Sex: 1

Religion: 1

Gruesome: 0

Suspense: 1

Morality: 3

Sex - only one reference when Rebecca tried to remember what her husband had been like as a lover

Religion - I do not recall any references to religion either way except that one couple got married by a waitress who got a certificte online to perform weddings. Some family thought it was odd but it was not scandalous.

Gruesome - nothing whatsoever

Suspense - fully entertaining but not at all suspenseful

Morality - there is no preaching but one does get the sense that all the characters try to live a good life and do the right thing. One character has three children by three different men but she was married to each of them individually at the time she had the child.

Discussion Questions

"In a way, it was love at first sight." (p. 50) Was it?

Rebecca dreamt of a son that didn't exist and then she kept thinking of him. Have you ever had a dream that stuck with you?

"Now she began to lead a whole other life - an imaginary, might-have-been life flowing almost constantly underneath the surface of her day-to-day existence." (Ch. 4) Have you ever ridden a what-if train and imagined an alternate path for your life? What would it be like?

Tina said marriage was "an institution invented by males for their own benefit." Rebecca "thought what a clean, simple life she would have led if it weren't for love." (p. 135) Have you ever felt like that? Discuss arguments for opposing views.

Should Rebecca have suspected something because Joe said "goodbye" not "au revoir"? What do you say when leaving? Why?

Would you go in a time machine? Past or present? Were you surprised that Rebecca said she would go to the future?

Will accused Rebecca of trying to waltz back into his life. Could she have? Discuss the dinner scene. Was Will too abrupt in his accusations?

Rebecca, at eight, saved the candle from her Aunt Ida until it ruined itself. Have you ever saved something too long?

Did you expect a relationship to flourish between Rebecca and Zeb? Were you satisfied with the outcome?

What was the significance of the repeated hurricane references toward the end of the book?

What did Joe's father's off-the-pages suicide contribute to the story?

Why did Rebecca continue to include "step" when referring to her daughters?

Have you ever contemplated your hands and been surprised?

What did you think was the best gift given to Poppy? What would you have given?

When did you know if Will and Rebecca were right for each other?

Theme Ideas



Prepare a toast that rhymes. Drink a ginger ale toast from sherbert glasses like Rebecca, Poppy, Joey and Lateesha drank to the new baby.

Decorate with lots of candles.

Set out on the coffee table: New York Times, New Yorkers and New York Reviews

Throw Poppy a birthday party including a "HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY POOPY" banner and a cake with fondant icing.